Half of Canada’s population to be immigrants or children of within next 20 years

“Multicultural will be mainstream” is a mantra we’ve all heard over and over.  Yet few brands and marketers have done little more than passable attempts at decoding the ethnic DNA and working towards an enduring strategy that would cultivate brand affinity amongst core ethnic audiences.

New population projections for Canada could well be a wake-up call for many brands and marketers still on the fence – either complacent or unsure of where to begin, and how.  StatsCan predicts that by 2036, nearly half the population of Canada would be immigrants or children of immigrants.  While the good news is that most immigrants will still settle either in Toronto, Vancouver or Montreal – where 1 in 2 people will be foreign-born – the composition will drastically shift towards Asian-born who will comprise more than half of the immigrant population.  In fact, in Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary and Winnipeg, visible minorities could become the majority!

This trend is not restricted to traditional immigrant hotspots. StatsCan predicts immigrants will also make up around 10 per cent of the population in places like New Brunswick and Nova Scotia.  Moreover, real-estate economics would assume a more significant role in community diversification and integration. While visible minorities are generally more comfortable in traditional enclaves, as real estate prices are rising, more people are beginning to take the plunge and move where its relatively cheaper to own a home.

Diversity at workplace is also expected to more than double by 2036, with 40 per cent of the 15-64 years working-age population projected to be visible minority – up from under 20 per cent in 2011.  Not surprisingly, this growth is also expected to be driven by South Asians and Chinese.

In 2015, India, China and the Philippines accounted for 40 per cent of all new immigrants.  Aside from arrival of approximately 300,000 new permanent residents each year, Canada is witnessing a fresh trend in immigration.  IRCC offices in Asia are reporting that mature adults with families are increasingly applying as foreign students. Inspired by the government’s recent decision to “fast-track” foreign students to become permanent residents, this new breed of students is looking to jump to the front row of Canadian citizenship.  Mostly from China, India, Korea and the Middle East, this growing population is redefining the classic student profile for marketers, opening doors for more brands and opportunities for family-centric communications to these audiences.

Clearly, all this means Canada will not only be more diverse but with more 1st generation visible minorities who speak languages other than English and French as a mother tongue. And this is just the easy part.  As the ethnic population grows, understanding psychographics of consumers from different cultures and backgrounds is a more daunting challenge marketers will increasingly face.  For instance, while most marketers may be convinced they effectively reach majority of South Asians through mainstream advertising or PR in English, or have Chinese language communication in place for a major campaign, can they be just as sure that they’re really connecting? It may not always be about the language. Just as the same piece of communication in English could mean something altogether different to a millennial than a baby-boomer.

Most marketers or their mainstream agency partners have little more than cursory understanding of ethnic consumer preferences, behaviour, usage and attitude when it comes to buying a product or service.  And they may largely fail to identify with, understand or interpret traditional and cultural nuances that drive ethnic consumer preferences and buying decisions. Moreover, such characteristic undertones are not limited to newer immigrants but may drive behaviour even amongst the more established and acculturated.  Small wonder that most ethnic outreach initiatives are still based on misconceptions and myths that at best may deliver only marginally, and at worst may border on the unpalatable.

As multicultural communities in Canada transform into inevitable mainstream, building lasting brand affinity will require empirical understanding of cultural, social, emotional and other cognitive triggers that can help make authentic connect with target ethnic audiences.  However, to achieve exceptional success, there needs to be a consistent long-term ethnic strategy, driven by the right internal and external teams, financial commitment and unswerving executive leadership.

The indisputable starting point would be finding the right marketing partner who can start you off at the shallow end with true multicultural orientation, help you identify the right target ethnic segment and define realistic goals and objectives before the deep dive.

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Photo Credit: Top Photo by © Graham Hughes / The Canadian Press